Calling Alois Ruf Jnr a tuner among those in the know is like describing Pininfarina as a bloke who likes to doodle cars.
This feature was first published in MOTOR's February 2009 issue.
The man is held as a deity thanks to 25 years of creating such legends as the infamous ‘Yellowbird’ – Ruf’s original 911-based CTR model. Its heroic stats read 350kW/553Nm and 4.0sec to 100km/h some 22 years ago, and it even starred in its own now-legendary video, Fazination.
That film was passed around in the motoring playground by car fanatics like a crumpled German porn magazine and went some way, along with his company’s inclusion in the PlayStation Gran Turismo games, to cement the Ruf legend.
But until now, all Alois Ruf’s headlining creations have been so closely based on the 911 that only the cognoscenti could tell them apart. He had to move to the next level. And the result is his own inimitable supercar. It’s called the CTR 3 – one-part 20th-anniversary homage to the Yellowbird, another-part Ruf futurist vision in metal – and it’s here to greet us at Ruf’s Pfaffenhausen, Germany, headquarters.
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The sunny weather helps, but its satin-sheen body finish is a wonder to behold. And it isn’t some cheap plastic stick-on wrap material that many tuners have turned to. Instead, it’s a painstaking paint finish that requires layer upon layer and costs hundreds of euros per litre. It’s a sign of just how much of a departure the CTR 3 is from 911 convention.
This is the first customer-ready, turn-key example of the ‘3’ that was first unveiled in April 2007, and one now honed to production perfection. Thankfully, its overall shape has remained unchanged, and it’s hard not to get blown away by the styling cocktail of classic Porsche GT1 with a hint of 550 Le Mans racer.
The obvious comparison is with Porsche’s own Carrera GT, but Ruf has blown away Stuttgart’s crown jewel for pure rolling theatre. Maybe from the rear three-quarter it has the slightest hint of flattened Cayman, but that would be a harsh judgement.
Dissect the shape, though, and the silhouette of a Porsche 911 Turbo’s front end, albeit dressed with Ruf’s own expensive carbonfibre front bar, becomes apparent.
We’ll stop short of calling it the most-expensive cut-and-shut job on the market, although integrating the frontal structure of Porsche’s own flagship handily side-steps crash-testing requirements. From the doors back it’s a whole new car, with a tubular steel chassis combined with carbon-Kevlar providing the most rigid hand-crafted chassis Ruf engineers could muster.
Such a clean-sheet approach affords design flexibility. And the big one is that the boxer engine is mid-mounted, forward of the purpose-built six-speed sequential gearbox, and not rear-mounted, ala 911 tradition.
That swooping back-end and monstrous airbox offer little in the way of rearward visibility, so Ruf includes a reversing camera. But with 515kW (at 7600rpm) and 890Nm (at 4000rpm) on tap from a 3746cc twin-turbo boxer six, you won’t spend much time looking behind you. That view-robbing rear wing is also integral to an aero package that helps keep Ruf’s golden child sucked to the deck at 375km/h.
Dip the CTR 3’s clutch (it’s a conventional three-pedal ’box design), grab first, and it walks off the line cleanly. Hook up those 20-inch rear Michelin Pilot Sports perfectly and it’ll hammer to 100km/h in just 3.2sec.
It takes a firm pull of the alloy shifter for the sequential gearbox to bang through the upshifts, but keep the throttle mashed to the carpet and all hell cuts loose once it hits its four-grand, full-boosting peak-torque, hurtling the meagre 1470kg coupe way into the distance. In fact, monster acceleration is almost too easy to extract. Lord, is this car fast.
There’s none of that tuneful romance you’ll hear from Italian supercars, but the whooshing and wheezing of turbos and wastegates channelling 1.2bar of boost through the boxer’s plumbing adds plenty of ceremony, good vibes and sonic delight. With plenty of volume, too.
It’s almost Veyron-fast, but it’s rear-wheel driven and weighs about the same as the WRX, thanks largely to its blend of steel, aluminium and carbon-Kevlar construction. So it feels much more agile and involving than a Bug’, like there’s prototype race-car DNA filtered throughout.
The on-road experience is nothing like playing with fire, but nor does the CTR 3 cop being manhandled. There’s a lightness and keenness to the chassis in corners, and despite a natural degree of understeer (tuned in for fat-wallet/low-skilled customers), it doesn’t take a big spark of enthusiam to set alight its immense potential.
Balance is exceptional, although it only really knuckles down and starts bending lateral physics with increasing road speed (and the resultant downforce). Despite this, steering remains eager and crisp even in tight, slow-speed stuff.
The brake package, with six-piston calipers and 380mm ceramic-composite discs at all corners, looks suspiciously GT2-like, despite the Ruf logos. And it works just as prodigiously. The strut front and race-style, horizontal coil-over ‘pushrod’ rear suspension is set firm, and relays every bump and ripple to the cockpit, while the shift lever is an arm-strainer and prolonged use will result in tinnitus. But leave it in a higher gear at a canter and Ruf’s beast lopes along happily in traffic.
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For finish levels, comfort and ergonomics, the CTR 3’s interior matches any hypercar. It doesn’t have those imperfections and flaws so often accepted in niche manufacturing as so-called ‘character’. The only real swipe is that it’s so Porsche-like inside and out that many won’t appreciate how uniquely Ruf this car is.
Germany’s tuning industry has created its own megalomanic arms race and most of the byproducts are merely missiles, sacrificing driveability and sanity in the name of high-end number-crunching. But Ruf has long aimed to blend a Porsche’s everyday useability with envelope-pushing capabilities. And the CTR 3 nails it.
There are faster cars. There are more beautiful cars. But this could just be the most complete hypercar on the market right now. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that any of the 50 examples to be built – at the equivalent of $AU825,000 – will likely find their way to Australia, though. Bugger.
RUF AUTO began trading in 1939 by Alois Ruf, but it wasn’t until his death, in 1974, that his son, Alois Jnr, turned the company into a Porsche-tuning powerhouse.
By 1977, Ruf was offering enlarged-capacity Porsche engines and, in 1981, it gained both a German manufacturers’ certification and marketed its own five-speed gearbox as an upgrade for the four-cog 911 Turbo. In 1983, Ruf began handcrafting its own cars using bare 911 chassis’ – first the 279kW BTR, then the record-smashing 350kW CTR ‘Yellowbird’.
Ten years later, an all-paw 993-based CTR 2 with 388kW/685Nm followed. Today, Ruf has factory outlets in seven countries.
RUF CTR 3
BODY: 2-door, 2-seat coupe
ENGINE: 3746cc flat 6, DOHC, 24v, twin turbo aluminium head & block
POWER: 515kW @ 7600rpm
TORQUE: 890Nm @ 4000rpm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 9.4:1
BORE X STROKE: 102.0 x 76.4mm
0-100KM/H: 3.2sec (claimed)
TOP SPEED: 375km/h (claimed)
TRANSMISSION: six-speed sequential manual
SUSPENSION: struts, locating links, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, horizontal fixed coil-over dampers, pushrods, anti-roll bar (r)
FUEL: 98 octane/70 litres
BRAKES: 380mm carbon-ceramic ventilated/drilled discs, six-piston calipers (f); 380mm carbon-ceramic ventilated/drilled discs, six-piston calipers (r); ABS
STEERING: power rack and pinion
WHEELS: 19 x 8.5-inch (f); 20 x 12.5-inch (r), alloy
TYRES: Michelin Pilot Sport; 265/35ZR19 (f); 335/30ZR20 (r)
PRICE: $825,000 (estimated)
RATING: 9 out of 10 stars
LIKE: Head-smashing performance and exclusivity, race-car looks
DISLIKE: Having everyone call it a “Porsche” (’cos it kinda is...)